Tyree Pickron (above) scored 32 points to surpass the 1,000-point mark and lead Archbishop Wood into the PIAA Class 5A semifinals. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
READING, Pa. -- Tyree Pickron knew exactly how many points he needed to get to 1,000.
The Archbishop Wood junior came into a PIAA 5A state quarterfinal against Spring Grove exactly 14 points shy of the scoring milestone, and determined as heck to get there.
It didn’t take very long.
In a chilly Santander Arena that typically serves as a hockey arena, Pickron was red-hot, racing past the thousand-point mark en route to a career-best 32-point outing, powering Wood to a 71-46 win.
Playing in a cold gym on a Sunday night in what was generally a quiet atmosphere -- both teams had fans, but the cavernous nature of the building and lack of seating under the baskets made it tough to feel like a state quarterfinal -- was just the latest obstacle for a Wood squad that's navigating its first-ever state playoff run like the favorites it was, just like it navigated having to play the second half of the year without a home gym after a partial wall collapse.
"It’s a long ride, it’s a long season, over 65 practices and 29 games so far, it’s a long time," Mosco said. "This is the first Sunday night game we’ve had in a different arena and you couldn’t even hear the crowd or feed off the crowd, so it was tough to get going.
"Couldn’t find the clock," he added.
They found it, alright, and themselves, with help from their talented junior class.
All the focus coming in might have been on the dueling future high-major guards in Wood’s Collin Gillespie (Villanova) and Spring Grove’s Eli Brooks (Michigan), but Pickron quickly stole the show.
The 6-foot-3, 180-pound wing guard knocked down four 3-pointers in the first quarter alone, helping his team out to a seven-point advantage.
In the second quarter, he started to attack the basket, finishing off drive after drive to help Wood (26-3) out to a nine-point lead at the half.
“After I hit a couple, (my teammates) started to find me, I didn’t force it,” he said. “Every time somebody gets hot on our team, that’s what we do, we find each other. That’s how it’s been all season.”
By halftime, he already had 23 points, hitting all but three of his 12 shots; he finished the game 13-for-17 from the floor, including 4-for-6 from the 3-point arc, shooting better there than he did from the foul line (2-for-4).
“He’s taking it to the rim a lot more forcefully and finishing better in traffic and his pull-up’s a lot better right now,” head coach John Mosco said. “He’s working on his game, on all aspects of his game.”
Pickron’s shooting ability has been on display since his freshman year at Wood, when he played big minutes from the get-go thanks to his ability to hit shots, rebound the ball and play defense. But now he’s becoming more of a well-rounded scorer, something he displayed with several tough takes to the hoop after that initial flurry of triples.
It’s a skill he’ll need to show off this summer if he wants to pull in more Division I offers; Drexel and Stony Brook extended looks last year, when he spent most of the summer dealing with injuries.
“My dad’s always telling me I’m a shooter first, and let my shooting open up my driving and I could be a great player like that,” Pickron said. “I try to listen to him, and it works for me.”
Gillespie got going in the third quarter, knocking down his second 3-pointer of the afternoon and starting to break down the Spring Grove defense with his dribble penetration as the Vikings ran the lead to 48-32 heading into the fourth.
The future Wildcat finished with 14 points, seven assists, six rebounds and three steals in his typical well-rounded fashion.
Matt Cerruti added 11 points to round out the Wood double-figure scorers.
Eli Brooks (above) scored 16 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to finish his Spring Grove career with 2,426 points. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Brooks, nursing an arm injury, wasn’t his typically effective offensive presence, finishing with 16 points but taking 26 shots to get there. The Wolverine signee didn’t let that bother him otherwise, grabbing 12 rebounds and dishing out four assists while guarding Gillespie and Pickron all game long.
He finally exited in the final two minutes of play, his legendary Rockets career ending with 2,426 points, good for second in York County history.
“We knew that Eli wasn’t full-strength and he would have to have an unbelievable game to be able to keep the points up to how many points they could score,” said his father and head coach, James Brooks. “We ran some possessions down here in the fourth quarter that we should have been running the whole second half, taking 30, 40, 50 seconds to get a good shot and get a wide-open 3, that’s what we needed to be here.”
Austin Panter led Spring Grove (22-9) with 17 points, but no other Rocket had more than four.
Spring Grove had a problem in general scoring against Wood’s Seth Pinkney in the second half. The 6-foot-10 junior forward entered halftime with no points and two blocks, but rejected five Viking shots in the third quarter alone.
He came up with a big 3-point play in the fourth quarter to help Wood pull away, finishing with six points, six rebounds and 10 blocks.
“[If] our guys played against those guys every single day, they would then get better and better at playing against that,” James Brooks said. “You see it once at states, it’s difficult to say you know when that guy’s coming...he’s definitely really long, he’s going to deter some shots.”
The Vikings will take on Abington Heights on Tuesday night for the right to play in Friday’s night final in Hershey. Tipoff time and location are yet to be announced.